UAV integration with naval combat systems: DCNS opens a new chapter in naval aviation

Camcopter

camcopter1

Following sea trials conducted from 9-13 December 2013 as part of the Serval 1 unmanned air
systems (UAS) programme, the French defence procurement agency (DGA) and DCNS have
validated the functional integration of an unmanned air vehicle (UAV) with the combat system
of a warship.

Launching and recovering a UAV from a warship presents many complex challenges. The successful
physical and functional integration of a tactical VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) UAV on board a
surface combatant by DCNS, with no impact on flight safety, represents a major breakthrough for
naval air forces.

Following sea trials on board the L’Adroit Gowind-class Offshore Patrol Vessel, the DGA, the French
Navy and DCNS validated all functional blocks between DCNS’s Polaris® combat system and the
Camcopter® S100 VTOL UAV developed by Schiebel of Austria. Based on the results of the trials, the
DGA has issued DCNS with a permit to fly for the Camcopter® S100.

The tests were designed to evaluate the performance of the DIOD-A module, developed by DCNS and
integrated on this occasion with the Polaris® combat system, for managing UAV payload data (from
electro-optical sensors in this case) in real time. A further aim was to demonstrate that the interface
between the UAS and the ship’s combat system has no impact on flight safety.

The DIOD-A module met all DGA requirements and now promises to deliver significant operational
benefits to French Navy staff in charge of operating the combat management system and the VTOL
UAV.

The tests were the first of their kind in Europe and the successful outcome is attributable in large part
to effective collaboration between government technical services, DCNS and its Austrian partner
Schiebel.

Full integration of UAV data into the combat management system and the operational integration of
the UAV operator into the CIC (Combat Information Centre) turn the UAV into a ‘telescopic arm’ of the
ship, extending its operational capabilities by providing real-time data from the theatre of operations
beyond the range of its onboard sensors. A UAV with an optronic payload constitutes an offboard
sensor platform that can relay data back to the host ship to identify threats from pirates, for example,
or to monitor fishing vessel inspection operations.

Navies in Europe and around the world are expressing strong interest in offboard sensor systems. The
sea trials have successfully validated integration of a VTOL UAV with a surface combatant for the first